Murals featuring MLK, Black community vandalized in Tampa

Tampa police noted that the destroyed artwork is a group of four large murals that depict the story of "The Scrub," one of the oldest and largest Black neighborhoods in the city.

An investigation is underway after someone vandalized murals featuring Martin Luther King Jr. and the city’s Black community in the heart of Tampa.

The Tampa Police Department said the vandalism caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to artwork portraying African-American heritage at Perry Harvey Park, according to Fox 13 News.

TPD Maj. Eric DeFelice called the damage “significant” and said it would take more than repairs to restore the art, especially the tiles and thick glass that were “completely wrecked.”

The vandalism at Perry Harvey Park in Tampa is shown on one of the damaged murals. The artwork is “almost irreplaceable,” a Tampa police official said. (Photo Credit: TampaPD)

“The work itself is not just a tile that you can go buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot,” DeFelice said. “These were put together, handcrafted by two artisans who live in New York and came down here and did outstanding work. So, they’re almost irreplaceable.”

TPD noted that the destroyed artwork is a group of four large murals that depict the story of “The Scrub,” one of the oldest and largest Black neighborhoods in Tampa, according to 10 Tampa Bay News.

Fox 13 also reported damage to a neighboring kiosk, intended to let locals and visitors discover the city. Police said there were one or two minor vandalism incidents in the past, but nothing to this extent.

“The vandalism of this artwork is an insult to our community and to all those who contributed to its creation,” said Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw. “It is disappointing to think anyone would cause destruction to this artistic representation of our city’s history. We are working to identify those responsible for this senseless act.”

Detectives are trying to collect evidence and create leads to catch the vandals, including collaborating with neighborhood residents and local businesses to evaluate camera footage. Police will also attempt to contact the artists to see whether they can replicate the artwork, but there is no guarantee.

Historian Fred Hearns, who works to preserve Tampa’s Black history, said though someone informed him of the damage, he was devastated after seeing it with his own eyes, 10 Tampa Bay reported.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is a hate crime,” said Hearns. “It was certainly intentional, perhaps done by more than one person. I will contribute to a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of who was guilty of this.”

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